US Justice Department says Google misuses attorney-client privilege to hide documents

The US Division of Justice has accused Google of coaching its workers on learn how to protect enterprise communications from discovery in instances of authorized disputes “through the use of false requests for authorized recommendation.” As Axios stories, the DOJ has advised the choose overseeing its antitrust case towards the tech large that Google instructs workers so as to add in-house legal professionals to written communication, apply attorney-client privilege labels to them and make a request for authorized recommendation even when it isn’t wanted. The division is now asking the choose to sanction the corporate “for its intensive and intentional efforts to misuse the attorney-client privilege to cover enterprise paperwork related” to the case.

Within the temporary (PDF) its legal professionals wrote for the choose, the DOJ mentioned Google refers back to the follow as “Talk with Care” and that it first began no later than 2015. New workers are reportedly directed to observe the follow with out dialogue on whether or not it ought to solely be used when authorized recommendation is really wanted. As well as, Google allegedly offered the identical coaching to groups dealing with search-distribution for the division’s (and different authorities’) antitrust instances.

Google particularly advised these groups to observe the follow for any written communication containing revenue-sharing agreements and cellular utility distribution agreements, primarily based on the presentation slides the DOJ included in its temporary. These agreements are central to the case. When you’ll recall, the DOJ accused Google of getting an unfair monopoly over search and search-related promoting in its 2020 antitrust lawsuit. It additionally questioned its phrases for Android machine producers that drive them to pre-load Google apps and set Google because the default search engine.

Based on the DOJ, statements akin to “including authorized” or “including [attorney] for authorized recommendation” seem in hundreds of Google paperwork. These emails apparently lacked any particular request for recommendation and attorneys not often reply to them. Within the temporary, the division mentioned the follow “pervades your complete firm” and is getting used even by Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

The DOJ is now asking the court docket to carry Google’s conduct as sanctionable and to order it to right away produce “all withheld or redacted emails the place no lawyer responded to the purported request for authorized recommendation.”

Google spokesperson Julie Tarallo McAlister defended the corporate in a press release despatched to axios, nevertheless, calling the “flatly flawed.” McAlister mentioned:

“Our groups have rigorously labored for years to answer inquiries and litigation, and ideas on the contrary are flatly flawed. Similar to different American corporations, we educate our workers about authorized privilege and when to hunt authorized recommendation. And we now have produced over 4 million paperwork to the DOJ on this case alone — together with many who workers had thought-about doubtlessly privileged.”

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